When you consider your goals as a chef, what comes to mind? Do you want to make people happy? Foster community? Participate in cultural and culinary traditions?
How about contributing to people’s health with culinary nutrition?
Culinary nutrition sits at the crossroads of food science and culinary artistry. It refers to the application of nutrition knowledge to the same skills and techniques that apply to any other cuisine.
Aspiring and established chefs alike may want to pay attention to this health-oriented approach to food. Let’s take a closer look at culinary nutrition—and why chefs should care about it.
Give the People What They Want: Why Culinary Nutrition Matters
Perhaps the most concrete reason chefs should care about nutrition is because consumers care about nutrition. Seventy percent of millennials have indicated that they want to take a more holistic approach to their health, while Gen Z is also leaning into healthier living—and as these two generations now make up over two-fifths of the population, aspiring chefs would do well to consider this trend. From a strictly business perspective, caring about culinary nutrition matters.
Food trends come and go—so why should this be any different? Unlike other trends—for a certain ingredient or cuisine, for example—this seems to be part of a broader, society-wide shift toward overall wellness. Almost half of Americans reported that, over the last two to three years, overall wellness has become a higher priority for them, and a majority are even willing to pay more for healthful food. So it seems that this is more than a flash in the pan—it’s the direction that consumers are going, which is why culinarians should be paying attention.
The scale of the opportunity is substantial. Research has indicated that Americans receive more than a fifth of their calories from dining out—but that the majority of those meals are of low nutritional value. Half of meals served at full-service restaurants and 70% at fast food restaurants are of poor nutritional quality. Consumers are aware of this, with many people choosing to cook at home specifically because they want to eat healthier. The high demand for and low availability of nutritional options means there’s a huge opportunity for chefs to focus on nutritionally dense foods.
By embracing nutritious cooking, you can give yourself a competitive edge. But this doesn’t just apply to aspiring chefs. The increasing demand for health-supporting options means that there are a variety of opportunities for you to launch a successful career based on holistic nutrition and wellness. Becoming a health and wellness coach, holistic nutritionist, or recipe developer are just a few of the alternative career paths you might consider.
Foundations in Culinary Nutrition Can Help You Deliver on Taste
So if embracing holistic health is a good opportunity, why isn’t every chef focusing on nutrition? The reality is that it’s not as simple as just using more vegetables and swapping in some alternative ingredients. You need to understand culinary nutrition on a deeper level if you want to start incorporating more nutritious cooking into your culinary practice successfully.
Imagine you work at an Italian restaurant and the owner pokes their head into the kitchen one day and says that the business is actually taking a new angle and is going to serve Thai food now, starting immediately. How do you think that would work out?
It’s unlikely that one can just switch to a different approach to cuisine without preparation and find success; it takes the right mindset, training, and technical foundations to make it work. Cooking with health and nutrition in mind is no different—you should consider culinary nutrition as its own cuisine, with its own principles and techniques.
Without relevant training, you might struggle to create dishes that deliver on one of consumers’ number one criteria—taste.
If your goal is to create a successful business that incorporates nutrient-dense cooking, learning the intricacies of culinary nutrition can help you create dishes that your guests will be excited to order.
An education in Holistic Nutrition and Wellness at Escoffier can give you the opportunity to acquire the foundations you need in order to be able to do this, combining traditional culinary education with nutrition and wellness principles taught by experts in the field.
Nutritious Food Can Have a Real Impact
Embracing more nutritious cooking isn’t just a good business prospect—it can actually have a direct and meaningful impact on both people and the planet.
In the United States alone, more than one million people die each year from what could be diet-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. And with Americans getting such a large portion of their meals at restaurants, this means that culinary professionals are in a unique position to have a direct impact on those outcomes. In a country that has some of the highest rates of obesity and of individuals with multiple chronic health conditions, nutritious cuisine can help play a role in improving public health.
Healthier cooking can also promote sustainability. While nutritious food choices don’t automatically translate to more sustainable outcomes across the board, making specific, health-oriented decisions can have positive environmental impacts; such decisions may include eating local, reducing food waste, and switching to a plant-based diet.
Plant-based diets are particularly important for the environment, for personal health, and for conscious consumption choices. By using less meat, you can contribute to a more sustainable future, as meat production is extremely resource-intensive. Beyond that, there are many ethical concerns about the way meat is produced, so reducing your reliance on meat can be an ethical as well as a sustainable choice.
Some research has identified that as many as 54% of Americans (and more than 60% of younger people) would be willing to choose an option based on sustainability or ethical considerations (and more than half would pay more to do so), meaning a commitment to sustainability isn’t just responsible—it’s what consumers want.
There’s also one specific person who can see a meaningful benefit from making a commitment to embracing culinary nutrition—you! Leaning into this approach to food can broaden your skills and imagination. This can make you a more marketable chef, which may lead to greater opportunities, like landing a better job or even starting your own business—which, in turn, can give you a bigger platform to reach more people. So from an individual to a global level, embracing nutritious cooking can have a meaningful effect.
Embrace Culinary Nutrition with a Culinary Education
There are a lot of reasons chefs should care about culinary nutrition—and a lot of variables you may have to consider when embracing this approach to food. You may find yourself adapting recipes, sourcing different ingredients, adjusting your creativity, and even changing the way you do business.
An education at culinary school can help you acquire the skills necessary to tackle this challenge. Escoffier’s Holistic Nutrition and Wellness programs focus on all aspects of culinary nutrition, delving into culinary techniques alongside health and wellness principles and business lessons—making up a well-rounded curriculum.
Our Plant-Based Culinary programs also can provide a thorough culinary education while focusing on ethical, sustainable, and nutritionally dense plant-based cuisine. Financial aid, grants, and scholarships are available to those who apply and qualify, which can help bring the opportunity to get an education in culinary nutrition that much closer to becoming a reality.
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